How Some State Capitals—And State Capitols—Honor County Governments

Capitol Avenue in Boise, Idaho

Capitol Avenue in Boise, Idaho Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

In some seats of government, pay attention for special seals, street names and even dioramas that honor counties.

BOISE, Idaho — Even if you haven’t been to Idaho’s capital city, you can probably take an educated guess that Capitol Avenue might be a major thoroughfare. In fact, the alignment of Capitol Avenue connects Boise’s historic train depot south of downtown with the neoclassical Capitol building through the heart of downtown. It’s the main way to head into the city center from the airport and provides a grand entrance with the Capitol’s dome anchoring the view framed by the golden foothills that rise behind the City of Trees.

When Route Fifty was in Idaho this past weekend, the street and sidewalks were under construction to accommodate a protected bike lane, so parts of Capitol Avenue looked somewhat unkempt. But walking north toward the Capitol, Route Fifty noticed a ceremonial succession of county government seals affixed to street poles along the route.

New York City once had a something similar along Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, aka Avenue of the Americas, with the seals of nations from across the Americas. But back to Boise ...

The seal of Bannock County, Idaho near the State Capitol in Boise (Photo by Michael Grass)

Idaho has 44 counties in all, including Owyhee in the southwest, Bonneville in the east and Boundary in the far north adjacent to international border with Canada. The seals are Boise’s way of honoring Idaho's counties, including its own, Ada. (Boise, for those unfamiliar with the Gem State, is not in Boise County.)

The seal of Lewis County, Idaho, along Capitol Avenue in Boise. (Photo by Michael Grass)

The names of Idaho’s counties are used at street names in Boise, too, just not in the city center like they are in Lansing, Michigan (including Kalamazoo, Shiawassee and Washtenaw streets); Raleigh, North Carolina (including Davie, Fayetteville and Hargett streets); and Austin, Texas (including Lavaca, Nueces and Red River streets).

Fayetteville Street in the heart of downtown Raleigh (Shutterstock)

There are other ways stitch county identity into the fabric of a state capital. In Sacramento, where lettered and numbered streets dominate, California’s 58 counties are on full display in the the lower-level corridors of the State Capitol as individual dioramas—though they sometimes can become stale and “sad” plus be used for inter-county comparisons when a neighboring jurisdiction updates their diorama.

County-specific dioramas in the California State Capitol in Sacramento (Photo by Michael Grass)

Those are only a few examples of county pride Route Fifty has stumbled across over the years, though we haven’t been to every state capital, state capitol or statehouse in the U.S. What are some other ways counties have been honored in a state capital city or a state capitol building? Let us know! Share your observations via Twitter and tag @routefifty or on our Facebook page.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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